As miraculous as they are, our brains are poorly designed for learning. In fact it is not at all designed for efficiency or order and, instead, develops best through selection and survival (Jensen, 2008). The direct teaching approaches that the West inherited from church and state sanctioned universities were the norm up through the mid twentieth century. Throughout history, communication technology, especially those of the written word and image media, challenged their claimed authority. In the early twentieth century, views of constructionist education theories emerged with John Dewey and others, suggesting that humans best generated knowledge and meaning through experience (Soltis, n.d.). Unfortunately, public utilization of this ‘experimental’ active learning approach was fiscally untenable until technology could offer a practical method of creating a unique learning environment for each student. 

The early forms of the internet, developed by the military through the 1970s (Robinson, 2001) eventually produced the means of interconnectivity that held promise of someday developing into the required infrastructure for personal active learning. Simultaneously, computing had developed as well. The Learning Research Group formed at Xerox PARC, led by Alan Kay, advanced the idea of the Graphical User Interface and applied this user-friendly idea to their KiddiKomputer for educational purposes by 1973. But, until the personal computing revolution of the late 1990’s, the internet would not play a large role in education. Instead, the cutting edge education technology focused on improving methods of distance learning with video and methods of correspondence. The convergence of the World Wide Web, developed by Tim Berners-Lee, affordable personal computers and the first degree programs attainable via online by the University of Phoenix (in San Francisco) in 1989 were harbingers of what would become the E-Learning revolution. Blackboard Inc. followed in June, 2000. (“History of virtual learning environments,” n.d.). 

The heavy investment into the promises of online education inspired a great deal of research, production and deployment in the education, business and military over the last decades. E-Learning tools rapidly developed, meeting a huge variety of needs. Course management systems (CMS) developed in education that managed courses and classes. Learning management systems (LMS) developed to help business manage training needs. Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) developed to produce efficient training units to support an increasingly specialized military. Though over 400 CMS, LMS and LCMSs have developed, they share some features of the long-hoped-for virtual learning environment requirements for active learning. Among them are asynchronous scaffolded multimedia content delivery, collaborative space and both synchronous and asynchronous communication conduits. CMSs contain tools to manage a classroom: recruitment, registration, lessons, grading, library resources, accreditation and compliance. LMSs contain training modules that suit employee training and development that might provide an upward path from first orientation through retirement or support possible regulatory compliance training. LCMSs might devise training modules to support specific weapons or procedural changes. Dr. Ghamari-Tabrizi, a historian of Military Science and Technology, states that the military leads the US in applied progressive education theory practices (Ghamari-Tabrizi, 2009). However, conclusive evidence of success in E-learning for education has not been forthcoming. Thomas Russell published in “The No Significant Difference Phenomenon” that online education in all of its many forms has not improved education assessment figures overall (Russell, 2010).  

Carmean and Brown have put forward the following ingredients for what they call ‘deep learning’ to take place: that it 1) is social, 2) is active, 3) is contextual, 4) requires learner ownership, and 5) engages the learner (McGee, Carmean, Jafari, 2005). However, technology is advancing faster than ever and is quickly assimilated by youth culture at a much faster rate than E-learning systems. For example, students have already largely embraced social networks, yet they have yet to make a large impact on CMSs or LMSs. By the time they do, Social Networks may be yesterday’s fad and E-Learning forever behind in gaining learner ownership and engagement. Regardless, Campus Technology claims that though only 185,000 children are enrolled in cyber charter schools today, that number will climb to 1.5 million by 2014 (Nagel, 2010). 

Are we ready? Many scholars suggest that the current platform designs are insufficient because they lack the flexibility to achieve deep learning . The very design paradigm of information siloing, personal data and security management required for the education system limit the active learning curriculum. (Lanier, 2010) Squeezing a successful classroom lesson into such limitations can distort it into  “accidental pedagogy”. The common lack of teacher training on how to use platforms also results in an unfortunate use of templates. (McGee, Carmean, Jafari, 2005)

So-called Web 2.0 tools will probably impact E-learning software development (Gibson, 2010). Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) may also play an important role in the future of online learning, too. PLEs allow users to choose from the smorgasbord of software offerings to match personal preferences and taste. For example, they may choose FaceBook or GoogleDocs to interact with their colleagues instead of using a school based social network. A standard open framework to embrace PLE architecture may prove a winning combination because it will likely be cheaper for a school or business to maintain. The quick adaption of and huge investment into LMS platforms by many schools in the last decade and the ensuing huge investment to support the effort has trapped them. 


Ghamari-Tabrizi, S (personal communication, January 2009) on the education developments employed by the U.S. military 

History of virtual learning environments. Retrieved June 5, 2010 from Wikipedia:

Gibson, I (2010) Dr. Gibson’s Two-Part Online Learning Systems Overview, Part II. Winter Park, FL: Full Sail Online retrieved from the FSO online CMS for EMDTMS LMO

Lanier, J (2010) You are not a gadget. New York: Alfred A. Knopf

McGee, P., Carmean, C, Jafari, A. (2005)  Course management systems for learning: beyond accidental pedagogy. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing

Nagel, D. (2010, March 3) The future of E-Learning is more growth, Campus Technology. Retrieved from

Robinson, K. (2001). Out of our minds. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Capstone Publishing Limited

Russell, T.L. (n.d.). The “no significant difference” phenomenon Web site. 

Retrieved on January 3, 2005, from

Soltis, J (n.d.). John Dewey. In Education Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 5, 2020 from


  • Reply

    Travis Franklin

    06 06 2010

    I agree that we learn best by doing. Aristotle stated it best when he said that, �What we must learn to do, we learn by doing�. The revolution of both the internet and e-learning has caused a surge in the demands of technology to continue to solve the questions we continue to have about how we deliver content and manage it over a period of time.
    When developers learn to incorporate the 5 ingredients you listed for deep learning (1. It�s Social, 2. It�s active, 3. It�s contextual, 4. It requires learner ownership, 5. It engages the learner) they will have found the perfect use of CMS, LMS and LCMS.
    I also agree that Personal Learning Environments will play an important role in the future of education because of their flexibility. When students can make the choice about how they want to learn and present their knowledge, they are more likely to be engaged and make deep connections with the knowledge they are attaining. Very well done and I will definitely look into the sources you used to make your arguments.

  • Reply

    Billy Goins

    07 06 2010

    One of the reasons I enjoy being a technology teacher is that technology is constantly changing and evolving. I began working with computers in the military on systems that used punched paper tape and data cards as the medium for storing and programming information and in comparison I�m constantly amazed at the digital / computerized products and services available. Your post is a reminder that educational communities adapt these changes at an infinitely slower rate than the purchasing public. Your statements concerning the necessary investment, platform and design restrictions, and a lack of teacher training are solid explanations for the lag in adaptation. Along with these issues, I�d like to add that there is a short sidedness of vision enhanced or re-enforced by budget and narrow curriculum standards. Fueled by the fear of failing standardized tests and not meeting annual yearly progress under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation and now with the addition of the Response to Interventions (RTI) mandate, school districts focus give budget, time, and manpower priority and efforts to meeting these goals. My expectation is that until LMS and other e-learning platforms can demonstrate correlations between such products and significant improvement in standardized test scores adaptation will remain painfully slow.

  • Reply

    joe bustillos

    21 06 2010

    Great job. I’m assuming that this is your wk1 project: LMO Overview assignment. Great opening sentences, the idea that the brain is not great at learning was a provocative comment to open with. Adding “efficiency” to the equation was a good move. Good job.

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